Having represented the Netherlands’ youth teams from u-16 to u-21, it was with a sense of excitement and intrigue that Middlesbrough fans greeted the signing of 20 year old sprinter-turned-striker Marvin Emnes in the summer of 2008. He joined Gareth Southgate’s young side with big things expected and turned in some star performances early on in his Boro career, but has earned a reputation as something of a mercurial forward; amazing one week, anonymous the next.
Following a disappointing relegation in 2009 and the eventual sacking of the man who bought him, Emnes was largely frozen out by new managed Gordon Strachan, who sent the youngster out on a short, but memorable loan move to Swansea. Despite only making four appearances, he became something of a cult hero in South Wales having scored the winner in a heated derby against local rivals Cardiff. Having fought for his Boro place upon his return, he has been repeatedly linked with a move back to Swansea in the years since, but nothing has ever materialised. There is some debate among Middlesbrough fans as to whether Emnes would be good enough to make the step up to the Premier League – although some point to his meagre goal scoring record, there are those who would argue he can be unplayable, when he is willing to ‘put a shift in’.
In terms of goals, the 2011-12 season under Teesside hero Tony Mowbray has so far been Emnes’ most successful season. In the opening month, Emnes shot to the top of the goal scoring table as Boro found themselves at the top of the Championship, but after Christmas both Emnes’ and Boro’s form dropped off – Boro finished seventh, with Emnes bagging an impressive if unspectacular 14 goals along the way. That season saw the best of Emnes; his pace and strength from his childhood as an athletics nut were evident, and confidence pulsed through his veins. He took defenders on at will and seemed to be able to find the net from any angle, however acrobatic he had to be – a League Cup volley against Walsall sticks particularly in the mind.
Since then, his career has taken a dramatic downward turn, with rumours of £5million bids from Premier League clubs a startlingly distant memory. In fifty appearances in all competitions since the agonising end of that season, Emnes has only found the net seven times and only once in twenty games this season. His form was symptomatic of the ignominious end of Mowbray, with a perceived lack of interest drawing abuse from an irate fanbase. A double in pre-season against French Cup champions Bordeaux seemed to herald a new dawn, and in truth his performances this season haven’t been too bad. His work rate has improved and at least in his dribbling, if not his finishing, there are some signs of the Emnes of old. Aitor Karanka has already started to work miracles for the Boro; at only 25, there is time for him to do the same for “Marvellous Marv”, but Boro have been heavily linked with strikers across the Football League and beyond this month. Another loan spell could do him the power of good… if not, the former Sparta Rotterdam man could soon find himself shipped back to the Eredivisie.